Three techniques to help overcome the fear of judgement

July 01st 2022

Being judged by others is a common fear - it's hard to avoid it. So how do you deal with it?

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Most of us in one way or another, worry about what others think of us – the fear of being judged.

Fear is a direct result of risk.  And risk is attached to a perceived lack of control. When we feel out of control, the natural fight or flight instinct kicks in leading to the symptoms of anxiety. And this is why the fear of judgement is so common: We can’t control what other people are thinking!

Yes, we can influence someone to laugh by telling a joke, but we can’t MAKE them laugh. We can influence someone to be impressed by being on our best game, but we can’t guarantee their appreciation.

Lao Tzu is an anxiety Chinese Philosopher.  The idea of being a prisoner may feel a little harsh, however most people can’t escape from their thoughts!

Here are three approaches I use to help people have greater freedom from other’s judgements.

1. Focus on your Intention

Recognise you cannot control another’s thoughts, you can only influence them. However, you can control your intention. If your intention is to have someone laugh, or leave them happier etc, then that intention is fully under your control.  And when you feel in control, anxiety reduces dramatically.

As long as  your intention comes from a positive place, you are doing the best you can.  Perhaps you recall a parent saying, “Don’t worry, you did your best.” This is an acknowledgement that often the end result is not what we intended, but that was out of our control and the action we controlled was done with good intentions.

So technique 1 is to be focused on your intention and by doing the best you can from a positive place, you are exerting the greatest influence possible on a positive outcome.

2. It's a game of tennis

I find the metaphor of a tennis match a useful one when it comes to judgement. On your side of the net, you control your shot; how hard it is, where you direct it to etc. But after it leaves your racket you have to wait and see what the other person does.

They may be in a  right grump and smash it back at you – but that is a reflection on them and not you.  They may not want to be on court and want the game over as soon as possible – their action is nothing to do with you and all about them.

Based on how they play the ball back, you decide your next stroke, and so it goes on.  And if they don’t ‘play nicely’ you can always leave the court!!

So this tip is about recognising that what other people do is more about what is going on inside of them.  Your responsibility then becomes the decision on how to react!

3. It's an opinion

Changing judgement for opinion really works.  Initially most people will see judgement and opinion as similar with judgement being a little less flexible.  Now think about those two things in terms of them being directed at you – make it personal.

This tends to change things a little with judgement then being harsher. The point is, you change your interpretation of judgement when it becomes personal.

We all have opinions. I tend to use politics as an example as most can relate to it – there is no right or wrong, opposing political views are just different and your reaction is based on the side of the fence you are sitting on.

This technique therefore is to replace judgement for opinion- someone has an opinion of you rather than a judgement. They may think you are fat/ugly/inept (after we rarely assume judgements are positive!!) and that is their opinion based on the side of the fence they are on.  You don’t have to share their opinion and indeed, you can even challenge it!

These three different approaches become even more successful in reducing the fear of judgement (social anxiety) when used in conjunction.  You may find you gravitate more to one than the others – perfect!  I find that I use different ones in different contexts.  They key is to do something different if you want to feel differently.

Which technique do you think would be best for you?

Let me know in the comments box below.

Caroline Cavanagh is an anxiety specialist  and hypnotherapist in Salisbury, Wiltshire.  She is an author and public speaker and would love to talk to you if you would like to know more about her work

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